Q&A: Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto on move to D-I

KEALAKEKUA >> There aren’t many coaches willing to line up their teams against behemoths. 

Especially any coach whose schooltakaki enrollment is barely 800. That’s what Brad Uemoto did last year, scheduling his Konawaena squad — a Division II state powerhouse — against perennial Open Division contender Kahuku. This fall, the Wildcats will suit up against Mission Viejo, one of the CIF’s premier football programs. 

In Uemoto’s mind, there’s not much point in staying tethered close to the mean. He is always in expansion mode. Expand horizons. Expand expectations. Expand the possibilities. Diverting from D-II is slightly out of its comfort zone, but Konawaena and other D-II teams regularly played D-I foes in the BIIF. 

At Konawaena, which was the BIIF’s overall champion from 1980-91, the aura of dynastic football isn’t unfamiliar. Arguably, the team in kelly green and white was the best team in the BIIF as often as any D-I program over the past decade. With the move from D-II to D-I this year, Konawaena won’t get to achieve that one elusive achievement: a D-II state crown. 

But the step higher means a lot for the BIIF. D-I programs in the league all have junior-varsity teams. Konawaena would have been one of just two D-II teams with a JV squad. Having six teams in D-I means five home-and-away series, more games with large attendance, and that means a ton. On an island where bus rentals sometimes approach $600 for one round trip, revenue is cherished. 

Coach Uemoto chatted with Hawaii Prep World about the changes afoot, including the opportunity for his now-graduated senior kicker, Harry Hill, to walk on at Hawaii. 

The BIIF football schedule for 2019 can be found here.

HPW: That’s a nice shirt.

Uemoto: It’s my favorite shirt in the closet. Old school ‘Bows. The vintage look.

HPW: Let’s talk about Harry Hill. He’s here on the field warming up. Last year (as a senior), he wasn’t in the stats. But as a junior, he had the one play, a 58-yard free kick off a fair catch before the end of the first half. Then he was on and off the field as a senior.

Uemoto: He actually got hurt in the off-season going into senior year. He pulled his hamstring at a camp on Oahu. He was in a phase in his career where he was pushing to get looked at. He had a trip planned to Texas Tech. He had just gotten back from Chris Sailer (kicking) camp. He got hurt at the GPA Combine Camp, and wound up cancelling his trip to Texas Tech. He came back and tried to rehab it. Hamstrings are one of those where there’s that push to try and that desire to get better again, and you get back out there too quick, and you wind up reinjuring it.

HPW: He’s not a skinny, small guy. He’s about 6 feet with a lot of weight on the injury.

Uemoto: Yeah, he was a big boy back then. It just never got better
There were points when he said, ‘I think I’m OK.’ A big game would come up during the season where we kind of needed him, so we took him off of kickoff and we found a range for him, it was like 35 yards. He could kick PATs and all that, so we started using him in that capacity, and then he got reinjured again, and we would sit him out again.

HPW: Was he practicing every day, too?

Uemoto: He was mostly rehabbing, he would ice, working with the trainers to get strong again. Now he’s fine.

HPW: He needed a few months.

Uemoto: Yeah.

HPW: He had some tough issues in his life.

Uemoto: His mom passed away during his junior year. She was a big supporter. She worked the concessions and everything. She was definitely engaged in Harry’s future. One of her wishes was to make sure he went off to college. That was something we wanted to make sure we followed through on for her. She left that wish that she kind of left toward us, make sure you look after Harry, make sure, you know, he heads in the right direction toward college. There were points in there with Harry where there was tough love and moments when I benched him, his junior year. He fought through it.

HPW: What about his dad?

Uemoto: His dad, he has three kids. Harry has a younger brother and a sister in high school. He’s managing through the whole situation. It’s a tough job.

HPW: Junior year is often a key time for a lot of kids.

Uemoto: Harry’s a different situation. Outside of John Rapozo, Konawaena’s never had a kicker. It’s always been a linebacker who can kick. They’re on a different format from (regular) practice, on their own workout. I’m just not accustomed to what a kicker should be doing through every day. He would kick so much and punt so much that he would just get bored. The guy would do different things. When we took up the field, he would start kicking between poles coming into the stands, trying to find ways to make the ball roll back down the hill so he wouldn’t have to chase it. It was pretty funny watching the progression of him through the years at practices. There were points when he’d get bored and we’d throw him in hitting drills, and he try to tackle people, which he can.

HPW: He’s around linebacker size.

Uemoto: We would joke a lot that he was a lot bigger than our linebackers.

HPW: Could you have talked to him about the future during that junior season?

Uemoto: Looking back now, his junior season was his highlight. For him, it was just maturity. I know his goal was always to go to college and kick. I know UH was always one of his favorite colleges. He started getting some national attention in terms of the Chris Sailer, he was ranked pretty high. He started getting attention from other schools. His injury really grounded him. He realized that it can get taken away pretty quick. He’s gotten healthy and he’s been working hard. Talking to Craig (Stutzmann) and Gobi and Rolo.

HPW: Do they compare him to anybody at his point?

Uemoto: No, they’re excited that he’s coming up. They have the returning starter coming back. He’s going into his senior year. If Harry can get up there and prove himself, hopefully as Konawaena fans and UH fans, we can see him kicking for the next four years or whatever it is. Hopefully, he has a good year.

HPW: Walking on means he’s going to be responsible for everything, his rent, his transportation, his food.

Uemoto: I think he’s ready for that.

HPW: Can he cook?

Uemoto: I don’t know, but I think he’ll be fine. He’s close enough to home, he’s just a plane ride away.

HPW: He looks like he’s dropped about 20 pounds since last season.

Uemoto: He’s been working hard. He’s been getting out there.

HPW: Since Harry’s gone, who’s your next kicker?

Uemoto: We’ve got an incoming kicker, Joseph Robach. He’s actually more of an athlete for us. He’s probably going to start at DB for us. He was one of our better athletes on our JV last year.

HPW: He’s a soccer guy?

Uemoto: Soccer kid.

HPW: Not as big, not as much range, but pretty accurate?

Uemoto: Actually, this kid’s big, probably the same size. He’s got thick legs. He kicked on the JV.

HPW: But he didn’t have a 58-yard free-kick field goal.

Uemoto: He’s definitely not just a kicking specialist. It’s going to be one of those where he going to have to get some time in practicing kicks on the side of his playing defense. He’s actually a two-way guy. He probably could start at receiver for us, too.

HPW: So, if you had a 35-yard field goal lined up, you’d give him a try?

Uemoto: Yeah. He’s come out in the offseason and he’s worked with Harry. So Harry’s been teaching him some things.

HPW: What Harry has learned from camps, especially from Chris Sailer, he’s passing it on. That’s awesome.

Uemoto: Yeah, it’s cool. It’s nice to see that.

HPW: Do you see Harry coaching one day?

Uemoto: No.

HPW: But those are exactly the guys who sometimes become the coaches?

Uemoto: Yeah, maybe. He is quiet, you know?

HPW: He’s too quiet?

Uemoto: Yeah, too quiet.

HPW: But then you don’t need to be loud. Well, special teams, you need to be loud, but if you’re the kicking coach, you’re one on one and that’s fine, right?

Uemoto: It’s weird, right. When he gets outside his element, which is kicking, he just gets very nervous on different things. The best part about Harry sometimes is, he didn’t grow up as a football fan or knowing the game, so he just came out to kick for football. When you put him out to kick a field goal, he has no clue about the situation. The game’s on the line, go kick this through with no seconds. He doesn’t know sometimes the magnitude of the kick, which is a good thing.

HPW: He’s still out there stretching, 10, 15 minutes. This is something, I hate to say this, but you probably should have learned from Harry. These crutches are on the wall, the coach got hurt a couple of days ago. Could you explain what happened?

Uemoto: I’m turning 40 next week, so I had this bright idea, in the offseason I kind of get back into shape with the kids. I was getting overweight, so I decided to jump into one of their footwork workouts.

HPW: You’ve done this before, no problem.

Uemoto: Yeah, no problem. So I was out there doing ladders and these cuts, catching balls.

HPW: You weren’t jogging.

Uemoto: No, I was trying to go my fastest. Probably a half-hour into it, I went to make a step and pulled back and I felt my calf pop. That’s the first time I’ve had a calf injury or felt anything pop.

HPW: So the weather was like this, overcast, cool. You were in and out, your muscles tighten up a little bit, not drinking much water or electrolytes.

Uemoto: So I went down. Definitely went down.

HPW: So it felt like someone shot your calf.

Uemoto: Oh yeah, the first thing I did was I grabbed my Achilles to make sure I felt it down there.

HPW: This non-stretching thing, is this stubbornness, the kind of thing as an athlete where it’s a double-edged sword. It works for you as an athlete to push through pain, but if you’re stubborn about something that you should do, now you pay the price and you’re on crutches. Which is bizarre for me to see because I’ve known you as an athlete since you were so young. Will you promise to stretch from now on?

Uemoto: I developed this theory along these lines. If you didn’t stretch a muscle while it was still tight, then it still has room to stretch, but if you stretched it, you’d probably pull it because it was at its limit.

HPW: I think there’s some truth to that theory. There is a thought that you can overstretch, but I remember hurting my back in my 20s. I did go to a massage therapist that a friend recommended. She removed almost all the pain. It was worth paying for that. You might have to do that, tune up your body like you would for your car. You probably have problems with your body that you’re not even aware of.

Uemoto: Oh, big time. My back. When I was 22 years old, I went to take my wisdoms. When they went to x-ray, they said, you had a fractured jaw. Looks like it healed up. I said, I’m not too sure.

HPW: Pain threshold is real good on the field. Not good in real life. So let’s talk about the team. Your JV head coach, Wyatt Nahale, moved on. He applied for the job at Kealakehe and they hired him. And his son, Shayden, was projected to start at quarterback, and a handful of kids followed Coach Nahale to Kealakehe, which was their home district. In the same time span, the BIIF finds out that Ka‘u and Pahoa want to move up from eight-man to 11-man football. So there’s this weird domino effect is taking place. If Kohala doesn’t follow the trend, they don’t have a football program. Right now, the AD said they have 20 to 23 kids at practice and there are more who signed up. So they’re headed to 11-man Division II with Pahoa and Ka‘u. And Honokaa responded to that by moving back up to D-I. They have a JV program, so that helps.

Uemoto: They do.

HPW: That put you guys as a school, as an athletic department, you as a coach in a tight spot. Do we stay in D-II because we never won a state title in D-II. Lahainaluna is still in D-II. They probably would do fine in D-I, but that’s a different dynamic. You guys could stay in D-II. Let’s talk about the minuses of staying in D-II.

Uemoto: Enrollment-wise, we’re a D-II school. D-I (in the BIIF) is 900. We’re in the 800s. Being a D-I school is not about how much talent you have in your starting lineup. It’s more about depth, how deep your positions are, how many two-way players you’ve got. We always say, if we have one injury to a certain kid, we lose two starters, plus special teams. The backup to that guy could be a big falloff, and maybe it’s two different guys and we struggle. You jeopardize other starters. If it’s an O-lineman, you jeopardize the health of your quarterback and your running back. So, that’s kind of the balance that we have. We really held out to declare for Division I or Division II because I wanted to see what our numbers were like this spring. Year to year, we’re not sure what our numbers look like. We graduated 16 last year. A lot of our numbers is the eighth-grade class coming in. So our future is definitely built. We’re going to have a huge JV team, which is nice, but our sophomore class coming in, they weren’t very big, so the freshmen carried a lot of that group. Then we had six potential starters leave for Kealakehe, which is a big deal for us, at good positions. Quarterback, D-line and O-line guys, a running back, a few DBs and one of our better receivers. It was like graduation. We lost 16, but now it’s like we lost 22.

From the perspective of, take me out of Konawaena and put a BIIF football fan hat on, I’m always trying to look at how we can keep competitiveness and remove blowouts. My wish was always to play this tiered format where you take the teams that have been better in the BIIF and bunch them up, and vice-versa, and match them from a competitive standpoint. I think that would’ve worked really well for us.

HPW: Your system would been a little bit like the OIA’s tiered system from the late 1980s and early ‘90s. A Red, White and Blue format, then in the postseason, go back to Konawaena being eligible to play in state-tournament D-II, which makes sense.

Uemoto: Right. There’s this whole side of building this program by scheduling Kahuku and Mission Viejo. We’re trying to build this thing to be better, trying to challenge ourselves. Why not just take on the Hilos, Waiakeas, Keaaus and Kealakehes, and challenge our program to get better. It’ll challenge our Pop Warner programs to build this D-I program to be a state competitor. We balance all of those things and I just felt the best thing was let’s go to D-I. It’s great to go to the state tournament in D-II all the time and be a fixture and compete, but when we really look at our program, we’re going to be good and compete at the state level, and there are going to be those years where we have to rebuild.

HPW: Back in the ‘80s in the Neighbor Island Classic, the BIIF never won but was always right there. Right now, Kapaa is a real force.

Uemoto: Kapaa is going to be real good next year, too. The KIF plays good football.

HPW: Between you guys, Lahainaluna, Kapaa, the D-II state tournament has been crazy. Just a huge demonstration of skill, coaching, effort, community pride. I hate to see that disappear. Waipahu made the move to D-I and transitioned pretty good by winning states. They always have a good 50 to 60 kids. Your eighth-grade numbers, what do you have?

Uemoto: My guess is 40. This is offseason workouts. We didn’t really have a spring ball. They all showed up, good commitment. We had 32 from the middle school here and obviously some coming from the Kealakehe middle school.

HPW: Really?

Uemoto: Yeah, so we’re going to have a big freshman class.

HPW: There’s still eight kids who decided, I want to play for Konawaena. Forty is a crazy number.

Uemoto: Yeah, that’s going to be a crazy class. On senior night in 2023, I might actually cry.

HPW: Are we talking about mostly smaller players or is it a good mix?

Uemoto: We actually have some good linemen in that group, some good skill kids. And the seventh-grade class coming up is super talented. Behind that, when we look at our Pop Warner program, the west side, the Kona Marlins have done very well, so the future is really bright.

HPW: So the Marlins are the big feeder. Is there still Kalaoa Falcons?

Uemoto: No, there’s the Eagles and Steelers now.

HPW: The Eagles used to be Solid Rock, and before that, they were Kona Hawaiians.

Uemoto: Yeah.

HPW: So the Steelers were?

Uemoto: They were the Raiders, at some point maybe the Warlords.

HPW: So these two teams are more in Kailua town. There’s no team up in Palisades anymore?

Uemoto: No.

HPW: Wow, so if you’re in Palisades, you have to come down and practice at the Old Airport. And the Marlins practice at where?

Uemoto: Kona Scenic, right down the hill.

HPW: They’ve been around forever. Do they have the same coaching staff from the ‘90s?

Uemoto: No, actually I think Dwight Martin passed away. He was the coach back in the day when they were the real deal. The program has done real well lately. They got a bunch of new coaches in there doing a good job.

HPW: Is there any coordination between varsity, JV and them?

Uemoto: We try. We have a clinic sometimes with them, show them a bunch of drills we do. We stay in touch. Brody Tinao, he’s down there helping Kawika Takaki. There’s a bunch of guys there who played in the ‘90s, helping out.

HPW: So with the large eighth-grade class, was your decision to play D-I maybe 80 percent influenced by the eight grade?

Uemoto: Yeah, about 80 percent.

HPW: Arguably, Konawaena has been better over the past five, six years than anyone in the BIIF.

Uemoto: I want to say since I’ve been the head coach, we’ve split with Hilo and there were a couple of seasons when we were the best team on the island. When we beat Waipahu (in 2017) two years ago in the state semifinals, that team was really good. That was, I felt, a D-I caliber team. It just showed, in a specific year, we can beat a D-I level team. The Waipahu team we beat was maybe better than the team that won the state championship. They were loaded. When we picked up film and we were scheming, they had talent all over the field.

HPW: They had extreme talent. The past year, I think they had a little more balance, even though they lost key guys. They had just the right balance. They weren’t one-dimensional and more and more kids are buying in. There’s a good chance your team will be playing Waipahu in the next few years in preseason and/or postseason.

Uemoto: We’re coming to Oahu on (Thursday) the 25th of July. We have a Leilehua/Kahuku scrimmage on the 25th.

HPW: At Leilehua?

Uemoto: At Leilehua. And then we’re trying to bring up our JV. I called Bryson Carvalho. I’m trying to set something up with Waipahu, but on the 26th, they have a scrimmage with Kahuku, so I don’t know if we’ll jump into that or if he’ll make a separate one for us.

HPW: Wednesday, Southwest (Airlines) $29 (one way). But that’s still $29 the kids have to come up with.

Uemoto: We’re going to fundraise. I just talked to the JV, I want to take you up there.

HPW: What’s the response you got when you told the team, we’re going to D-I, then you talk to your core guys, your staff, your administrators, is there optimism or doubt?

Uemoto: I have a really good staff. When they signed up, loyalty was a big thing. They definitely have my back. I’ve made some outrageous decisions like going to play Kahuku last year, which a lot of them were weary about, but they know from me being a head coach, I’m kind of a little bit off the chart. I’m a little bit crazy in a sense, but I don’t want to be the normal person.

HPW: It’s about risk. You’re not worried about losing to Kahuku 14-0 or 44-0.

Uemoto: When we scheduled that Kahuku game, it was that Tuesday before we left, some of the coaches came to me and said, are you sure you want to do this? I said, absolutely. We’re going. We’re going to hold our word. Glass half full. We’re going to benefit from this. And so they were, OK, coach, we got your back. I don’t even ask these guys, I just tell them, hey, guess what guys? We’ve got Mission Viejo on the schedule next year. They’re like, what? Ok, here we go. Going to D-I, the response was more of we’ve got to get rolling rather than what are we doing?

HPW: Did it create more consistency in the weight room and working out?

Uemoto: I don’t know if that created numbers, but from year to year, it depends on how committed that group is that year. Our young kids are really committed, working hard every workout, putting work in the weight room, on the field. Hopefully that sticks.

HPW: The way you play football, it’s not very conservative. You can be, but you like to spread the field, create opportunities, let your guys use their speed and hands. But who’s going to be the quarterback now with Shayden gone?

Uemoto: We sort of have to regroup. We have a kid Keawewai Lincoln, he’s coming up from JV. He actually goes to Ehuwai, the immersion school (next door). He’s going to be a sophomore and started for us (JV) last year, grew a lot of and did a good job. Right now, that’s the guy. I want to say we have three freshmen kids that are going to be really good football players, really good quarterbacks. Lambert Raquel, the ’98 player of the year, his son is coming up. We’re weighting it all out. I’m not afraid to start a freshman.

HPW: Do you feel like one of these guys can stand in the pocket under pressure, or do you feel like the offense will be one or two years away?

Uemoto: I don’t know how productive they can be right away, but I always feel like it’s the system. Whoever’s the quarterback, we’re going to coach him up. He’s going to make the simple reads. It’s more of conducting the offense and executing.

HPW: So no one has proven it yet, but by the end of summer camp, you’ll know. Do you have a guy who can whip it 60 yards?

Uemoto: No.

HPW: That would be nice, like Marcus Mariota slinging it 65 yards in high school. What about your receivers?

Uemoto: Our receivers actually are pretty good this year.

HPW: You’re a former receiver. Who do you like?

Uemoto: Mark Basa and Jesse Canda, our outside receiver and slot.

HPW: Do they rotate sometimes?

Uemoto: I’ll probably just change formations if I want that. They’re going to be our top two guys. A kid that played his freshman year, a really good athlete, baseball player, James Capella. He’s going to compete at another slot. We’ve got a ton of potential at receiver.

HPW: You can’t get anything done if you can’t protect your quarterback for at least 2.5 seconds. How’s your line going to be?

Uemoto: We have one returning starter, Christopher Fabian. He played guard for us last year and maybe he’ll go to center this year, we’re not sure.

HPW: He’s a verbal guy.

Uemoto: Yeah. We’ve got some young kids coming up. Jason Leleiwi’s doing a good job with our line. He’s our offensive line coach. He’s very even keeled, quiet, they respect him. They just keep working at practice and he’s optimistic, too. He builds a group and he goes, Coach, I’ve got you something. I have all the faith in him that he’s going to put something together.

HPW: I think he wore 78 in high school. I could be wrong, but that offense he was in, they would spread the field, but mainly it was running. There were some great running backs and some pretty good linemen in his era. Gibson Alip and all those guys. So if the defense gives you a nickel or dime, you guys are willing to run 40 or 50 times. You’re willing to be efficient. You’re not married to, I have to throw 62 times.

Uemoto: We are. We’re just opportunistic, we take what they give us.

HPW: That’s how you score 69, 70 points in a state championship game. Let’s finish this up. Locked into D-I, it’s a done deal. Kealakehe will be one of your opponents, home and home. Keaau’s always interesting. They always have talent there, but only once or twice every 10 years they get it together and can whoop some butt. The system, have they’ve talked about a first-round against second-round champ?

Uemoto: It’s the top two guys. The reality is, whoever is in the championship, that’ll be their third meeting. That’s pretty crazy, too.

HPW: That’s six teams in BIIF D-I, so that’s 10 games. This is what they did in the ‘90s. That was a pretty good schedule.

Uemoto: It’s going to be brutal for us, you know, just the physicality.

HPW: Maybe one bye. Maybe.

Uemoto: I’ve seen the schedule, but I didn’t really look through it.

HPW: Maybe they can squeeze one in. Are you going to miss playing Hawaii Prep, Kamehameha-Hawaii — which is probably happy to see you guys leave.

Uemoto: Yeah, I mean, we started a nice little rivalry with them. Maybe next year we can schedule preseason with them, but we’ll see. It was always good playing them. All of our games were competitive. In my era, HPA was always our rival. As a coach, I always took that game as, it’s always good to beat HPA because they were our nemesis in high school.

HPW: A lot of good Kona, Honokaa, Paauilo, Waimea kids playing for HPA back them. One less bus ride to the farthest area of the island for you guys without Kamehameha-Hawaii, but it was a nice rivalry. Having a JV team and staying in D-II, if that had happened, I’m curious, would you have had to schedule independent games for them to play against Hilo and other D-I JV teams?

Uemoto: That’s the thing. I think we would’ve had to find out who had the bye that week, and go play them, but the problem was it was always going to be two sites on probably two different days. So we would be really splitting our program up.

HPW: And a lot of your varsity guys coach on the JV, too. Quality control issues.

Uemoto: It was going to be hard to do that.

HPW: So that was the other 20 percent.

Uemoto: Yeah, 19.

HPW: For the football coordinator, Kalei Namohala, the AD at Ka‘u, and Lyle Crozier, the BIIF executive director, a lot of people are looking at it and from a practical sense, Konawaena needs to be in D-I. They’ve got the JV. They’ve got the following. People will travel not just to see the varsity, but they’ll travel for the JV program even if they don’t have kids on that team. They’ll get there early, get to Wong Stadium in Hilo early. That’ll bring in more revenue. It’s not just about money, but you guys needs to survive because a bus rentals is $400, $500.

Uemoto: Right. I think it’s even more.

HPW: It’s not a joke, so football is the money-maker. I can see where they wanted to keep it simple. They tiered proposal is good, but we just want to keep it simple. But the tiered proposal was possible, but you still guys still would’ve played the bigger programs. The fact that they actually tolerated it and discussed it is far superior to what happens in most leagues. In the MIL, Lahainaluna has said they would be fine with the first place team going to the D-I (state) tourney and second place going to D-II.

Uemoto: I would’ve been in for the same thing, just play one big schedule. If we’re first, we go to D-I. If we’re second, we go to D-II. Year to year, it just fits a more competitive standpoint. It makes more sense.

HPW: Numbers-wise, it’s hard to justify a bigger school playing in D-II.

Uemoto: That format would’ve worked well. The year Hilo won the state championship (2017), it’s hard because we beat them that year, but we didn’t even win in the D-II state title game. You want to see in that year, maybe if we were both in and followed that format, Lahainaluna and Konawaena actually would’ve been the D-I (final) game, and Hilo-Damien would’ve been the D-II (final), and then it feels better. That’s just the odd part. Maybe you were the best team from your island, but you won the state championship in your division. That’s where it gets weird.

HPW: Kealakehe versus Konawaena, home and home. Sellout?

Uemoto: Big time.

HPW: So, if you don’t get here (Yates Field) by 5:30 or 6 p.m., you’re taking a chance.

Uemoto: Big time, yeah.

HPW: Julian Yates Field doesn’t really have individual seating, so it’s kind of hard to put a number on the cap.

Uemoto: I don’t know if it was three years ago, it was Kealakehe-Konawaena, homecoming Konawaena. People were parking down by Greenwell Farms and the elementary school, and walking up the hill. There were cars parked all the way to the top of this hill. The Hele-On bus came at 6, couldn’t turn around and got stuck. There was a line of cars just down this hill throughout while the JV game was going. From the old-timers, they said this was one of the biggest crowds we’ve seen.

HPW: (Longtime sportswriter) Bobby Command would say that’s more than 4,000, which is hard to picture because even with the small bleachers you put over on the visitors side, it’s mostly seating on the home side, so I don’t know if it’s 4,000. But it’s packed.

Uemoto: They fill the hill, the top and the bleachers and this whole walkway.

HPW: It’s time to maybe get a shuttle. Is there a big parking lot close by?

Uemoto: They should actually open up the baseball field.

HPW: Oh, they don’t want to get the grass trampled.

Uemoto: Graduation.

HPW: Maybe they can ask Costco to borrow the parking lot and run a shuttle for the Kealakehe people, shuttle them up here.

Uemoto: Those are going to be great games. I have a lot of respect for Coach Wyatt and what he’s done for me up here. We still have a good communication. We know it’s just about competing. Obviously, I’m going to be his biggest cheerleader outside of the two games that we play them, and vice-versa. We definitely want to see the west side football become relevant again. That matchup’s going to be cool. They’re still friends, the six guys who left, of ours. There’s still that feeling of friendship.

HPW: All of them live in that (Kealakehe) area.

Uemoto: They actually came up as eighth graders for our program. When Wyatt went back down, geographically, they’re right there. That drive from Kealakehe to Konawaena in the morning, you’re going through traffic, then there’s traffic going back down the hill. Sometimes you don’t blame the parents for not wanting to do that.

HPW: Thank you for everything, Coach Brad. It’s been an interesting voyage. You’ve probably got a good 20 or 30 years of coaching left in you, but not if you keep popping that calf. There’s some slopes and hills here. Stretch well.

Uemoto: Thank you.


  1. The Rim June 22, 2019 4:46 am

    Good interview up until he started talking about losing to Lahainaluna but beating Hilo. I hate it when coaches like to skew and take away from the accomplishments of other teams. Hey you’re in DI now and will play Hilo at least twice. Go beat them this year.

  2. Wainakea June 27, 2019 4:32 pm

    That 23-21 victory was at Konawaena under really muddy conditions. Hilo also used Miyasato instead of Apao at QB. While a win is a win, I wouldn’t really consider that game a definitive measure of strength. It’s kind of disrespectful to Damien as well.

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